Rainbow Reflections: What It Means to be Autistic and LGBT

First and foremost, I wish everyone reading this a happy Pride Month, as at the time of writing this, Pride Month has just kicked off. I wish I could say that I hope that this Pride Month will be a good one, but given the current circumstances, I’m just hoping we can all make it through in one piece. I should note that I will not be personally commenting on the controversies taking place as I do not feel it is The Tism’s place to do so for a variety of reasons. Instead, what I want to talk about today is a topic that’s pretty personal to me and a lot of autistic people I know, and one that’s very much in the spirit of Pride Month: Autism and how it relates to being LGBT.

I’m gonna say it upfront: I am bisexual. I am openly bisexual and have been so for many years now. I was lucky enough to be born into a family that’s accepting of my identity and of people like me, and I know that there are many people, autistic or otherwise, that do not share that same luck. But what I also know, and something I want to talk about, is that the experience of being both autistic and LGBT is a strange one, yet at the same time, perhaps owing to my choice of friends and social media, is a rather common one.

Going into my experiences, I found out I was autistic at around age 6, and I discovered that I was LGBT pretty soon after that, though at the time I didn’t really have a name for it nor did I know that there even was a name for what I was. Once I figured out what I was, it was less of an earth-shattering revelation and more of a “Huh, that’s neat”, and judging from the people I’ve talked to, that seems to be a rather common occurrence, though I should note that there’s probably just as many cases wherein finding out one was LGBT was an earth-shattering mind blowing revelation. Everyone’s experiences are different after all. But anyways, it was something I just kind of….accepted right off the bat. No denial, no shame, none of that. I just accepted it and moved on with my life. Maybe it’s because I already knew I was “different” for a long time and this just added to the fact, maybe it’s because I grew up with a tolerant family, maybe it’s because I had known for a while, or maybe it’s just that autistic tendency to either overreact to things or completely underreact to them.

Either way, it was a rather unique experience, and one wholly unlike all the depictions of LGBT people in media, pop culture, or otherwise (the very few that there were), and that even included the experience of coming out to my parents, which was greeted with a “Yeah, okay”. No dramatics, no tears, no angry shouting, just a sort of blanket acceptance and everyone moving on with their lives. And now, when I think about the experience of being autistic and LGBT, it’s one not marked by dramatics or revelations, but this sort of feeling of “Yeah, okay, whatever.” I take pride in my identities, I celebrate them openly, but at the same time it feels like just another part of who I am as a person. I’m not just “an autistic person” or “an LGBT person”, I’m somehow both, but also neither because at the end of the day, I’m just me. It’s a part of who I am but it’s not all I am. It’s something I’m proud of and I speak openly about it but I am not defined by it. Though if there is one thing I find funny about it, it’s that both the autistic community and LGBT community are often depicted with rainbows, and I can think of a symbol no more fitting than one that celebrates and illustrates diversity, as both autism and LGBT are incredibly diverse, covering a large swathe of identities under those big, beautiful umbrellas.

Again, I should reiterate that I am speaking simply on behalf of my own experiences rather than on the part of all autistic people or all LGBT people or all autistic LGBT people as a whole. Still, I should mention that, like I said earlier, my experiences with having these dual identities are ones I’ve seen my friends and even strangers on social media relate to, this notion of just being…both not being a big deal at all. For something that’s theoretically so unique and against the odds, it seems rather….quaint and commonplace.

But once more, this is just from the things I’ve seen and experienced, and as such, I want to use this blog post as not just a blog, but a platform for discussion. Specifically, I want autistic LGBT people to voice their opinions and talk about their experiences having those dual identities. Has what I said resonated with you, or was your experience entirely different? Also to parents or friends or relatives of such people, how have you taken it? What identity, if any, sticks out to you more? If you could, please leave some comments on this blog post or respond on social media, because I’m very interested to see the sorts of discussions this brings about.

Sorry if this was a less organized blog post. It was a weird topic but one that was both very relevant and very interesting to think about, especially since I’ve never really looked into it too deeply myself or even thought about it that much. With that being said, I hope you all have a nice day and have a great Pride Month!